Copyright 1985 The Economist Newspaper Ltd. The Economist November 9, 1985 SECTION: World politics and current affairs; EUROPE; Pg. 66 (U.S. Edition Pg. 62) LENGTH: 411 words HEADLINE: Yugoslavia; Is fair unfair? BODY:Yugoslavia has run into trouble with what some people in the West call reverse discrimination. The problem involves Kosovo, an autonomous province of the Serbian republic, where nearly 80% of the population are ethnic Albanians. (The rest are mainly Serbs and Monte negrins.) For several years the provincial government's policy has been to share out jobs among the nationalities in Kosovo by means of ethnic quotas. Now the constitutional court of Serbia has struck down this practice as unconstitutional.
The court's president, Mr Radosin Rajovic, a Serb, held that proportional representation was contrary to the principle of equality embodied in Yugoslavia's 1974 constitution, "because it facilitates the suppression of members of numerically smaller nations and nationalities." The court's decision was not unanimous; one judge, a non-Serb, argued that proportional representation of nationalities was needed to put the principle of equality into practice.
Behind this dispute lies a bitter conflict about the future of Kosovo. Yugoslavia's Serbs think that they are being deliberately squeezed out of Kosovo, once the centre of Serbia's medieval state. There has been a steady emigration of Serbs and Montenegrins from the province, particularly since the riots there in 1981.
The Albanians retort answer that positive discrimination hasn't gone far enough. In 1966, before the policy was introduced, Serbs and Montenegrins occupied just over half the public-sector jobs in Kosovo, although their share in the population was 27%. Now 22.5% of those employed in the public sector are Serbs, but this is still far greater than the Serbian share of Kosovo's population, which has fallen to 13.2%. The Albanians say Serbs and Montenegrins tend to emigrate in search of better opportunities outside Kosovo, Yugoslavia's poorest province.
What happens now? It is unlikely that the authorities in Kosovo will pay much heed to what the Serbian constitutional court says. But Serbia's party leaders are under strong pressure from Serbian public opinion to demand a closer integration of Kosovo into Serbia. Ironically, the Serbs who have emigrated from Kosovo to Serbia proper are not finding life easy. According to the Belgrade weekly Nin, the old (also Serbian) residents accuse them of getting preferential treatment for jobs and housing. They are even called "Siptars", a pejorative Serbian word for Albanian.
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